Saturday, March 28, 2009

Martinsville Singing

The King and John Andretti in victory lane at Martinsville, April 18, 1999.



Source: Daffi's AndPetti World

For the first few races of this season, I've tried to add a race-relevant song to this blog. I was pleasantly surprised at how many choices of song titles are available involving race track names or cities.

This week I got my first real challenge. Martinsville, Virginia is rich in racing tradition. The little 1/2 mile track originally opened by Clay Earles pre-dates the formation of NASCAR itself. Its a track that's still stuck in time as compared to the big speedways with all their modern amenities. Yet with all the racing lore there, songwriters or poets haven't exactly flocked to it to inspire their words. So I was stuck. Matter of fact, I just shrugged it off and found me a good Ft. Worth song to bridge the gap between Bristol and Texas.

And then mid-week, it hit me. My ol' bud Monte Dutton - racing writer extraordinaire - is a songwriter as well as a NASCAR beat writer and blogger. He wrote a song last year titled appropriately enough "Martinsville".

This week, he added the tune to this NASCAR This Week blog & saved me the trouble of having to embed it here.

So grab a Marty hot dog, smell the azaleas, expect a win from Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday, and listen to Monte Dutton's rendition of "Martinsville".

Monte Sings Martinsville

TMC

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bristol recap part 2

Now where was I... Oh yeah!

Green Flag, Green Flag

I think I got ahead of myself in part 1. I was in the Big Sleazy, New Orleans, the back half of last week. I got back into town late Friday night, kissed the kids & put them to bed, packed a few remaining things, and bedded down for a few scant hours of sleep.

The rooster crowed as my wake-up call at 4:30 in the blessed AM. I did my perfunctory 3 S's of the morning, met the race weekend crowd, and we were on the road by 6 AM for a quick 5 hour jaunt to Bristol. Upon arrival, the aforementioned Schaefers were cracked and hoisted. A good time was to be had by all - but little did we know HOW good a time.



The Schaefer Hall of Fame signature sign - autographed on the back only by the chosen few who choose to begin their race weekends by drinking a Schaefer first, have gone to more than a handful of races, know that Jeff and Robby Gordon aren't related, and are committed to a full fun day.



The rest of what turned out to be a 22 hour day for me went something like this:

Schaef > Brats > Coors Light > Nationwide Race > Coors Light >
Old Timers Race > Outback dinner > Fosters > Holiday Inn lounge >
Some kind of cold brew...and Jaeger >
Negotiation with the race buds with local pizza delivery guy >
Ride with the pizza guy to Bristol area sports bar > beverages > cab to hotel >
Indecipherable text message to race bud with hotel key...who was standing 3 feet away >
Deep slumber at 2:30 AM

A Great View of Thunder Valley

Fantastic shot of the whole track. Thanks Rookie for sharing this pic - and the Schaef pics (and brews too). Too bad you had to sit at 37,000 feet and wear an oxygen mask to snap it.



Race Notes
  • Kyle Busch acknowledged in the post-race press conference that he challenged his crew to man up on the final pit stop and not let him down like he felt they did in Saturday's race. I was scanning him a bit on Sunday, and his words were "OK ladies, let's not f*** it up on this one." Just a bit different than he chose to spin in to the press.
  • Shrub was in his own ZIP code Sunday. I was amazed and disppointed how many of the major teams failed to bring their A game - Dale Jr, all the Rouskateers, the RCR triumverate,
  • Travis Kvapill did all he could at one point during the race to give Golden Corrall all the exposure he could. He raced Shrub hard for about 15 laps - even to the point that Kyle's teammate Denny Hamlin closed quickly and at one point even almost wrecked Kyle. I don't particularly care about Travis one way or the other, but its been sad to see the rapid decline of the famed 28 team.
  • The shelving of the 28 team may be just the beginning. The overachieving 44 team of A.J. Allmendiner was only slated to run 8 races. But with A.J.'s fine run at Daytona, the team earned enough jack to keep them in business through the 600. After that, its anyone's guess what will happen. But its going to be a true shame if a team in the top 20 as A.J. is now can't get corporate backing to go further than one-third of the season.
Race News
  • Mark Martin - So he says he wants to return full-time in 2010. Please, make it stop. He's been a bust this year. I don't lay all of it at Mark's feet. The current 5 / former 25 team has been a cursed dog for decades. Rather than state the obvious, I'll simply quote Matt McLaughlin's skewering comment:
"Apparently, Mark Martin would like to compete again full-time in 2010. Color me surprised. Cue up that old Lynyrd Skynrd LP, because I’ll take the word of a liar…one more time. Don’t get me wrong; Martin is a class individual, and his name belongs on any top 5 list of the greatest drivers never to win a title alongside Junior Johnson and Tim Richmond. But I feel he owes anyone who bought his “Salute to You” retirement gear what seems like a decade ago a refund."
  • Finally, I read where Papa Rick has given the vote of confidence to keeping Dale Jr. paired with Tony Jr. This - after Jr. intimated that the media was causing high stress levels and underperformance on the team by constantly harping on the 88 team's finishes. Please Jr, spare us all. Are you talking about the same media who turned out in droves to see you leave DEI and again when you chose to sign with HMS? The same media who follow you around and treat you like a rock star and not ask any really tough questions about your racing career? The same media who keep a camera constantly trained on you during a race to replay whatever may happen during the 3 hours of the race? The same media who don't even raise the question of why a random caution is thrown giving you the lucky dawg as soon as you go down a lap?
On to Martinsville. Wish I was going.

TMC

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Bristol Bash

I survived yet another Bristol weekend. Made my first trip there as a 20 year old in 1986 and saw Rusty Wallace win his first race. Went this year for about the 5th or 6th time as someone ... who is NOT 20 years old anymore but tried to act like it.

I may have to do this in multiple entries because (1) I'm not sure I can remember everything in one setting and (2) I'm not willing to sit here and type it all at one time anyway.

Let the weekend begin!
  • As has been the case as just about every race I've attended since the 1992 Winston 500, the weekend with race friends began with a Schaefer brew. Yes, they still make it. The tradition of pounding a Schaef likely merits its own blog entry...another time.
  • I had a couple of brushes with celebrity. First, I ran into Bruton Smith - Speedway Motorsports, Inc.'s CEO - in the Holiday Inn lobby where we stayed. And Saturday during the Busch race, I saw saw Linda Vaughn, former Miss Hurst Shifter. She may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but she still has the big, bleach-blond hair, tight britches, and high-heeled boots. And in her day, she was something else.
Bristol's surface
  • I've heard and read many complaints about the new transitional Bristol surface. Fans and others who cover the sport in multiple forms of media complain Bristol has lost the infamous bump-and-run. The gouge-and-go is no more. No more helmet or HANS tossing. No leaping over hoods to take a crack at another driver who wronged you.
  • As someone who has watched a lot of racing over 30+ years, I'm OK with the new surface. Its aged well over the last 2 or 3 years. Bristol finally has a bit of mojo back with multiple grooves. The drivers can actually race there now. Admittedly, those additional grooves are only meaningful if your car can keep up with the #18 Snickers Toyo - which no one else could.
  • Because so many fans started following NASCAR during the peak of Earnhardt's career or in the Gordon era, many of them only know the concrete, 1-groove Bristol. But old Bristol was more like it is today - find some footage from the 60s and 70s (perhaps Dale Jr's Back in the Day series and you'll see 3 and 4 wide racing from the apron to the fence.
Old timers race
  • We stuck around after the Saturday race to watch the old timers put on a show. Clearly, Bristol's management tried to put a fun event together to sell tickets and (hopefully) reconnect the fans of today to the drivers of yesterday. For that I applaud them. SMI promotions dance circles around ISC tracks year after year.
  • The #11 Busch Beer late model prepared for Cale Yarborough looked every bit as good as his cars from 1979-1980 did. Unfortunately for Cale, he couldn't RACE it like he did in 79-80.
  • I grew up as a kid going to local late model sportsman races at Nashville Speedway. Three or four times a year, the national LMS touring series came to town for 200 lap features. My dad liked the LMS series far more than he did Cup. He was a much bigger fan of drivers like L.D. Ottinger, Harry Gant, Butch Lindley, Sam Ard, and Jack Ingram than he was of Petty, Pearson, the Allisons, Cale or Buddy. What a neat opportunity to have several of those guys still with us - and with enough competitive fire in their bellies and a glint in their eyes to give it another try for 35 laps.
  • I also grew up watching Sterling Marlin from the time he was a late model rookie. While I'm sure he had fun leading every lap and winning the race, it was pretty silly to have an "old timer" like Sterling in this special race when he had a starting spot in the Cup race on Sunday. Seems to me former drivers like Dave Marcis, Buddy Baker, Lennie Pond, or Buddy Arrington might have been available & could have added to the fun.
I'll pick it up again later with some thoughts from the Busch and Cup races as well as other news that made the weekend.

I'll leave you with a slideshow of selected pics from the weekend.



TMC

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Bristol Baby

Well it was a Bristol baby, as in sleeping like a baby. I will reserve space for fellow crew chief TMC who was there in person but from the comfort of my living room, it was a beautiful spring day outside and there was plenty of March Madness to flip to, both of which were more interesting than this race.

Now I'm not like my casual racefan buddies, who hate the new track and think it's boring because there's not enough wrecks. I don't get any mileage out of wrecks, except for the interesting drama of tempers flaring and the points shake up. But this race was a snoozer. Another 3 hours (at least it wasn't 4+) watching Shrub dominate and at least the best car won. And not 1 of our blogpoll voters got this one right...and banktruck taking Harvick got it wrongest.

Now back to the brackets....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Martin Brodeur



While we pause before Bristol, let me veer off into hockey again to honor a great goaltender Martin Brodeur of the NJ Devils who last night surpassed Patrick Roy and became the winningest goaltender in NHL history. I still think Roy is the best overall goaltender in NHL history, but in the playoffs I wouldn't take anyone before Brodeur. I have always liked and respected how Brodeur plays, even if the Wings were victims of his magic (a sweep!) in the 95 Finals while Brodeur was surrounded by thugs Claude Lemieux and Scott Stevens. Brodeur's stack of hardware is impressive and he has played his entire career for NJ, a refreshing exception to today's money grubbing prima donnas in every sport.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Morning Thunder

Morning Thunder is tea? Really? Hmmm, not around MY house it isn't...



So I guess its true. I do learn something new every day.

Meanwhile, after a short work trip to New Orleans, I'm off this weekend to a thunder of another variety - Thunder Valley - Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Schaefer is already cold. The scanner is charged. Tickets are in hand. Drop the rag man & let's go racin!







TMC

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bye Bye Digger

Hey, forget our little weekly poll on this blog. You MUST act quickly and vote to get rid of that annoying rodent they call Digger. Vote early; vote often.

Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:20 pm EDT

Trial of the century: Digger stands accused, and you're the jury
By Jay Busbee

A courtroom. At the defense table, a gopher wearing goggles fidgets and looks around nervously. The prosecuting attorney walks across the courtroom and stares directly into your eyes. He begins his closing argument.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you know this defendant, the gopher called "Digger." You've seen him popping up in the middle of NASCAR races. You've heard Darrell Waltrip giggle as if Digger was his own flesh and blood, chirping about "how cute that lil' ol' critter is."

Ladies and gentlemen, Digger's cuteness is not on trial here. Digger's friendliness is not on trial. Digger's camerawork is not on trial here. No, what is on trial here is Digger's total disregard for the intelligence and interest of its audience. (Digger is, of course, simply a fall guy for Fox Sports, but we caught him trying to sneak out of Atlanta Motor Speedway, so here he is.)

Digger has turned our beloved NASCAR into a Saturday morning cartoon, a child's television program that is rammed down our throats dozens of times an hour. So ladies and gentlemen, it is now up to you to determine Digger's fate. Go into the jury room, which looks a lot like the comments section below, discuss the defendant, and then make your call. Should you find Digger not guilty, he will continue to pop up constantly during your favorite races. But should you find him guilty, we'll package him off to inhabit old Dora the Explorer reruns, where he'll be more at home and we'll be rid of him once and for all.

The choice, members of the jury, is yours. Choose wisely.


I hope Fox is listening. If only getting rid of our politicians were this easy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hurry on down to your NAPA store

Folks, you better hurry. During March you can run down to your local Napa Auto Parts Store and trade in ANY CAP for a 55 Michael Waltrip Napa Racing Cap (with any purchase of course). Supplies are limited. See participating store for details.

Get Hat

March 13, 1983 - Carolina 500

Its gone from 80 degrees a few days ago to Tennessee to mid 30s with a combo of rain, sleet, and snow. Sounds like Rockingham weather. Oh yeah, NASCAR doesn't go there anymore. They moved to California for about the same number of 'fans'. Whatever.

Instead, we have memories like this great finish between the veteran King Richard and the upstart Bill Elliott seeking his first win.



TMC

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tootoo!

Since Nascar has the week off, maybe we should change gears to our other favorite passion. With playoff spots on the line, the intensity increases even among non-conference non-rivals. My favorite Predator (yes I actually have one) Jordin Tootoo shows off his primary skill. I have always liked this guy's energy and intensity, even if the train whistles are a bit annoying. Maybe he's even a bit Earnhardt-ish. Credit youtube user SmashMouthHockey for having this up within the hour.



The only Red Wing I would dare go toe to toe with Tootoo is Darren McCarty, when he is not hurt or playing for Grand Rapids that is. But back in the day..... the ultimate rivalry of the 90s and bad boy Claude Lemiuex gets his after a sucker hit on Kris Draper and sparking an ice-wide brawl including a goalie fight where Patrick Roy gets a piece of it from Brandan Shanahan (note both skates off ice) and future Conn Smythe trophy winner Mike Vernon.



And finally the rematch where Lemiuex manages not to turtle. Saw this one live, it was surreal when the gloves dropped simultaneously with the puck.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Separated at birth?

Sunday's Atlanta winner Kurt Busch...



... and comedian Andy Kaufman.



You decide.

If so, perhaps Jimmy Spencer could play the role of wrassler Jerry Lawler.




TMC

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Clint's Yummy Dinner

Well it was bound to happen... from mellow aged oaken barrels to cheeseburger mac served by a puffy glove. Poor Clint. At least BB&T will be on the car a few times. This is made worse by the 07 being nonexistent, the only time I've seen it is an in-car camera shot as someone passes him.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

This Week's Installment of Madcar

Allow me to coin a term: Madcar. Not Angrycar, but Insanecar, as in a British "surely you are mad." This week's edition is a tie between, well, two likely suspects: Bruton Smith and Kurt Busch.

Madman #1
Bruton Smith wants NASCAR to yank its final race of the season out of south Florida.

"Why have the last race of the season at some Godforsaken area just north of Cuba?" he said, referring to Homestead Miami Speedway. Atlanta's fall race shifted a few weeks earlier in 2002 and this year it moves to an even earlier spot on Labor Day weekend. While plagued by weather issues when held in November, Smith said his track would still be a better location for NASCAR to hold the final race than Homestead.

Interesting. Anyone remember Atlanta being snowed out, let alone rained out and cold frequently? Reference to Cuba? Miami is one of the 10 biggest American cities. What is Mad Bruton thinking? Ahhh, he tips his hand, read on:

"If they'll give us our date back," he said, "we'll fill up the place again and do something major for the sport. If that doesn't work, put it in Las Vegas. We'll add more seats — and sell out every one of them."

AHA! Any flies on the wall (screen) before the creation of this blog would know this has been a topic of conversation. A fairly predictible ploy to move the season ender to a) an SMI track and b) somewhere with more glitz. TMC has even suggested they might move the awards dinner to Vegas. Kudos to fellow crew chief.

Madman #2

You may have seen my post last week about why I would rather see engine failures than tire failures. At least the blame can be put on manufacturers and teams. Not so fast banktruck, enter Kurt Busch, himself a victim of engine failure at Vegas:
"Goodyear should be congratulated for the tire it brought last week," said Kurt Busch, who had his own mechanical problems. "We got to RPMs we didn't expect to get to. I think we were running about 9,800. That's a lot of RPMs for an engine. I don't think you saw more than 9,600 last year. It caught some teams off guard."

So, it is Goodyear's fault again! Nice try Kurt. Anyone see any 9800s last week? I didn't. At least Tony isn't in on this one (yet).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hoo-ah! Nashville - the manliest city

Take THIS New York City.

NASCAR, BBQ make Nashville manliest city

City Rankings

Criteria to earn manliest city honors included NASCAR enthusiasts, outdoorsman activities, professional sports, home improvement stores, abundance of barbecue, etc. Points were taken away for home furnishing stores and mini-van sales.

Bonus points should also have been given for having high number of purty gurls in a manly city 'cause we got 'em by the dozens in Music City USA as well.

Congrats Nashville. Read it and weep LA, NYC, and San Fran. Affirmation you've been emasculated.

TMC

Monday, March 2, 2009

What is this !??!??!


What kind of shameless marketing stunt is this? I missed this, must have been at Busch race. I'm glad I did. I don't know who is responsible but I sure hope it's not Theresa but surely it couldn't have happened without her sanction.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Los Motors Motor Speedway

For the second year in a row, my new year's resolution is to learn Spanish. Besides a variety of Mexican dishes and Mexican restaurant names, I am still ignorant; but having the world wide web at my disposal, I can now safely translate today's Las Vegas race into its Spanish equivalent.

Before I launch into that, first a shout out to Nascar & SMI for honoring the gearhead god Carroll Shelby in the titling of today's race. A breath of fresh air in the era of corporate racing (that's English for dinero). And whoever thot of making it a 427 instead of a 400 should get an extra week of vacation and a bonus to spend in the casinos. Let me be honest. I am no Ford guy, never have been, never understood Mustang mania. Give me any of a dozen other muscle cars from the era before a Mustang. But the Shelby Cobra was in a league of its own.

I hoped "engine" would translate into something cool in Spanish, like tires = llantas, but alas its only el motor / los motors. So we'll go with it. The weekend of Los Motors. Five Toyos bomb in practice including the pole sitter. Roush bombs bookend the race from lap 1 to 1 to go, including 2 race hotstreak winner Kenseth and 2009 Cup champ to be Cousin Carl. A Dodge bombs after qualifying 2nd and running in the front. A Chevy bombs sending a previously blogged about driver to the hauler for a snack of pop-tarts and a big glass of feel good with the team. Tag on the HMS engine disaster last week. What is going on here? Obviously everyone is looking for a HP advantage, sometimes it works, sometimes not. I suspect that since so many things are mandated these days, there's only a couple places to gain an advantage: basically a new driver or more HP. At least Toyo has a little egg on its previously invincible face. I had a theory a couple years back that HMS was winning everything in sight mostly because they could carry higher RPMs, you could see it at the end of straightaways on the telemetry. Shortly after that Nascar mandated rear end gears to level the field and force everyone into the same RPM band.

So would we rather gripe about los motors or las llantas? Personally I would rather see a rash of engine failures, at least you can pin that on makes and teams, something they control. Applaud them for pushing the envelope, criticize them for pushing it too far. Unlike tires where everyone suffers and everyone gets a free cheap shot at Goodyear (sometimes deserved of course but always with Tony at the front of the line, reminiscent of a scene from the movie Airplane).

24 grenades a tire sliding toward pit road and can't pit, but finishes 6th with a ducttape left front fender. Meanwhile 48 slides thru pit box under green, later gets jacked by 96 pitting, runs back with the troublemakers and wrecks out. Kudos to Reutabaga and Bobby Ask Labonte for top 10s.

Next race Atlanta. Hmmm another high speed high sustained RPM track? Maybe everyone better put los motors ano pasado back in there for a week or two.

Greg Biffle - Preach on brutha!

From Friday's USA Today NASCAR notes...
Biffle was critical of recent comments by his former teammte, Mark Martin, regarding the quality of the cars on Martin's new team, Hendrick Motorsports. "I love Mark Martin," Biffle said. "He's a character, but if you look back historically I think every interview you see Mark in you can just hit the record button. 'Man, I'm having the time of my life. This is the best race car. This is the best group of guys. I've never seen anybody work so hard in my life.' I see it over and over. It's like a replay. It's like a bad dream. I'm just telling you what I see on TV. I see the same thing in the interview and there's nothing wrong with that. You've got to be positive, right? He's being positive and that's Mark Martin— being positive. When he went over to DEI it was the chance of a lifetime and they were the best cars in the garage. I think it's the same thing now, but I would have to say that Hendrick probably has the best stuff in the garage with Jimmie Johnson winning the championship three years in a row."
Mark's optimism, his ability to always plug his sponsor du-jour, and his loyalty-in-the-moment to his team has endeared him to his fans, media, and sponsors over the years. Up until about 4 years ago, I was ambivalent about him - didn't pull for him but also didn't pull against him. But his multi-year, prolonged retirement/resurgence, want to spend more time with my family, well...maybe another year routine has grown old to me.

Apparently others share the same opinion.

As an aside, a bud of mine made a great observation recently about Mark's sponsors from a few years ago. He went from racing for Viagra in the Cup series to being sponsored by Miracle Gro in Truck series. My friend asked "so isn't that basically the same thing?"





TMC

What were the odds of this as a Petty sponsor?

For about the last 30 years, Richard Petty has consistently said he refuses to run alcohol-related sponsors on his cars out of deference to his mother's moral objections to booze.

He said he wouldn't contract with such a company to be his primary sponsor nor would he run a contingency decal. As a result, pole wins by Bobby Hamilton and John Andretti way back when resulted in their being ineligible to run the Bud Shootout back when it was fielded by prior season pole winners because the pole-winning car had to display the Bud decal.

However, the King's no-hooch position was not absolute (no pun intended). Here he is runing the 43 at Bristol in 1980 with a Busch beer decal prominently displayed on the front fender.



When Richard retired at the end of 1992, Petty Enterprises changed the car number to #44 for one season and hired Rick Wilson (ugh, that hurt to type that...) for the unenviable position of replacing the King behind the wheel. Once again, a brew brand from the St. Louis brewer was displayed right below the A pillar.



Even when Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports in January 2009, Richard reiterated his stance about having alcohol associated with the Petty name. This from ESPN...
Petty also demanded that Budweiser, which sponsors Kasey Kahne's No. 9 car and had logos on the other GEM cars prior to the merger, not be on the 43 or 44 to uphold a family tradition of not being associated with alcohol-related sponsors. "My mother would come back and haunt us home," Petty said of what would happen if Budweiser showed up on either car.
So while Bud (or a Coors Light pole award) decals won't show up on the 43 or 44, apparently its OK for the Petty name to be on the Bud hauler.



So I had to chortle heartily when Richard Petty Motorsports unloaded the #44 of A.J. Allmendiner at Las Vegas this weekend adorned with the colors of Harrah's Casinos. Look, don't get me wrong. I'm no moralist. I drink a bit, and I've spent a few nights in Vegas. (However, to be candid, the only real gambling I do regularly is my 22 mile daily commute amongst drivers with cell phones and lipstick tubes.) And I've been a Petty fan since the mid 70s so I'll give the King a pass on just about anything.

But I think the inherent contradiction of his not wanting to have alcohol sponsors yet accepting gambling dollars is funny. Perhaps his mother didn't like drankin' but wasn't opposed to rollin' dem bones, doubling down, splitting her aces, or a late night round of Texas Hold 'Em.



TMC